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Five Ravens who need to step up after the bye

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Five Ravens who need to step up after the bye

The Ravens never expected to be 2-6 at the bye. Will they fare better, or worse, in the second half of the season, now that wide receiver Steve Smith (torn Achilles) has been lost for the year? Here are five Ravens who have underperformed in the first half of the season who need to step up:

- Kyle Arrington, CB

The Ravens hoped they were getting a consistent nickel corner when they signed Arrington as a free agent. Instead, Arrington has struggled at times sticking with receivers and assignments in traffic. Shareece Wright, who was not signed until last month, has already supplanted Arrington as the third corner behind Jimmy Smith and Lardarius Webb. The Ravens are still thin at cornerback, so it would help their secondary if Arrington stepped up his play.

- Marlon Brown, WR

Hard to believe Brown had seven touchdowns as a rookie in 2013, but no touchdowns since. The Ravens have been waiting for the rookie version of Brown to reappear, but so far it hasn’t happened. Brown has just 13 catches for 106 yards this season, despite numerous opportunities. If Brown’s production doesn’t pick up, his future with the Ravens will clearly be in doubt.

- Timmy Jernigan, DT

The Ravens hoped Jernigan would take his play to another level after Haloti Ngata’s departure, but that hasn’t materialized yet. However, Jernigan looked more active Week 8 against the Chargers and may be in line for a strong November and December if he stays healthy. Ravens defensive tackle Brandon Williams is having a Pro Bowl caliber year. If Jernigan needs an example to follow, he simply needs to look at Williams.

- Eugene Monroe, LT

Staying healthy has been a problem the last two years for Monroe, and the Ravens have not gotten what they expected when he signed a five-year, $37.5 million deal last year. The Ravens need Monroe in the lineup and playing solid football, protecting Joe Flacco’s blind side.

- Jimmy Smith, CB

Smith may not be fully recovered from last year’s foot injury, which makes it more difficult to take chances and play aggressively. Despite being beaten for a few big plays this season, Smith remains talented enough to be one of the NFL’s top corners. That’s the Smith the Ravens need.

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Ravens' John Harbaugh credits early offensive success to Joe Flacco

Ravens' John Harbaugh credits early offensive success to Joe Flacco

OWINGS MILLS, Md. (AP) -- John Harbaugh has seen Joe Flacco play in more than 170 games for the Ravens, including 15 in the postseason with an MVP effort in the Super Bowl.

Though Baltimore's coach is hard-pressed to remember them all, Harbaugh ranks Flacco's performance against Denver on Sunday among the best.

Flacco went 25 for 40 for 277 yards with one touchdown and no interceptions in Baltimore's 27-14 victory . He's put up better numbers during his 11-year career, but this outing stood out because of the fashion in which Flacco zipped the ball short, long and in between.

"He's had a lot of good throwing days, right? But definitely ... it's in the top category," Harbaugh said Monday. "That's what you'd like to see Joe do. I just think it's a combination of a lot of things, including confidence in the guys that he's throwing to."

Harbaugh became Baltimore's head coach in 2008, the same year Flacco entered the NFL. The pair has gone through a lot together, most recently three straight seasons without a playoff appearance.

The Ravens (2-1) hope an improved offense will turn things around.

It's been a long time since Flacco has had so many capable receivers to choose from. Offseason acquisitions Willie Snead, Michael Crabtree and John Brown have been excellent, and Mark Andrews got into the mix Sunday with 59 yards receiving, a Ravens record for a rookie tight end.

"I'm really pleased with all those guys. They're playing really well and they've made big plays," Harbaugh said.

With Flacco leading the way, the Ravens went 8 for 16 on third down against a team that stopped 17 of 22 attempts in its first two games.

"All the receivers have a good chemistry with Joe," Brown said. "It's all about trust, starting with practice and talking with him to see if we're seeing the same thing. That plays a big part of it."

The Ravens have long been known for their defense, and that unit has played well. But, at least for now, the offense is doing its part, too.

After Denver bolted to a 7-0 lead, Baltimore went the distance on a soothing touchdown drive.

"That was the tone setter for us as a team, to have them answer for us and really get us back to even," safety Eric Weddle said. "And, once we settled down, shoot, defense played lights out."

As did the offense -- again. The Ravens are averaging 32 points per game, and Flacco has completed 82 of 129 passes for 889 yards and six TDs with just two interceptions.

Most impressive of all is Baltimore's performance in the red zone: 12 trips, 12 touchdowns, including 3 for 3 against Denver.

"We've had a good mix. I think we've probably thrown the ball in six times and run the ball in six times," Flacco said. "If you can do both of those things, especially when you get down tight inside the 5-yard line, that helps a lot. We've got good playmakers, and we put a lot of pressure on the defense with the guys that we have out there."

Give credit to the receivers, along with the running back tandem of Alex Collins and Javorius Allen, but Harbaugh knows the real reason why Baltimore has been unstoppable inside the 20.

"It probably starts with Joe," Harbaugh said. "I think Joe has done a great job making plays, making throws, trusting his guys and also extending some plays. That's been big."

The Ravens escaped the Denver game without any serious injuries, and Harbaugh hopes middle linebacker C.J. Mosley (knee) can return for an AFC North showdown Sunday night with the Pittsburgh Steelers.

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Ravens Week 3 Player of the Game: LB Kenny Young

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USA TODAY Sports

Ravens Week 3 Player of the Game: LB Kenny Young

What the Ravens have lost in three-time Pro Bowl linebacker C.J. Mosley due to injury, they've gained in rookie Kenny Young.

Week 2 against the Bengals, Young stepped in for Mosley and put up five solo tackles and three assists. Then when Week 3 came around and Mosley was still too injured to play, Young got the start and logged 44 snaps. He finished with eight solo tackles, two assists and a critical third-down sack on Broncos quarterback Case Keenum in the second quarter. Young's stingy performance helped fuel a stellar defensive effort in the Ravens' 27-14 victory.

A fourth-round draft pick out of UCLA, Young has the maturity needed to succeed in this league.

Obsessed with perfection, as noted in a profile done via the Ravens' website, Young is already impressing his coaches and veteran teammates. 

He’s a smart guy, so he doesn’t get overwhelmed by a mistake,” Ravens Head Coach John Harbaugh said. “He’s not scared to make a mistake. He’s willing to play fast even if he does make a mistake. And sometimes, some of the plays you see him making? He might not be perfectly where he’s supposed to be, but that willingness to play fast overcomes it, and you go make a good football play.

While the timetable for Mosely's return is unknown, the Ravens can find solace in knowing their young replacement is a steady hand.

The 23-year-old currently leads the team in tackles (17), followed by Tony Jefferson (12). 

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